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Confidence in the Midst of Persecution

August 13, 2015 One Comment

by Thomas Kruesel

Second Vice President Thomas Kruesel

Second Vice President Thomas Kruesel

This edition of The Canadian Lutheran focuses on the changes facing our church in Canada. Most of us are aware that this has been going on for a long time, and that it is not unique to our church body.

Our world is different from just 25 years ago. The religious landscape in Canada is becoming more fractured. Those holding to the Christian faith are now in a minority, and the teachings of the Church make it an unwelcome participant in conversations regarding almost everything. The question that faces us is, what should our attitude be regarding these changes? We can rail against them and bemoan the moral decline of our society, or we can see them for what they are: the natural state of a world disfigured by sin.

It should not surprise us that we as Christians are beginning to face persecution for our faith. Jesus himself tells us, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Rather than facing these changes with trepidation and fear, we can face them in the strength of our Lord, who has overcome the world.

cl3004-cover-webSo what should our attitude be toward the persecution that has started, and will likely continue to mount, against us? I admit with some shame that at times the thought runs through my mind, “If I face persecution like my brothers and sisters in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, I’ll take up arms to defend myself and my family.” Perhaps you have thought something similar. My question is: where does this kind of thinking come from? The only source I can identify is the world.

Part of the decline of society is the over-emphasis on individual rights. As a society we have turned just about everything into a “right.” Society has pushed this so far that now even the determination of right and wrong is an individual “right.” This kind of thinking lies behind my desire to defend myself, and my right to practice my faith: “It’s my right!” But neither Scripture nor Martin Luther look at the exercise of their faith as a right to be defended, even by force. Jesus says, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39). Luther says, “Where governmental authority is an enemy of the Gospel, we withdraw, sell, relinquish everything, and flee from state to state, because no tumult should be stirred up by resistance for the sake of the Gospel, but everything should be endured.”

Neither Scripture nor Martin Luther look at the exercise of their faith as a right to be defended, even by force. Jesus says, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39).

In fact, both Scripture and Luther go so far as to look at persecution as a privilege and blessing. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”(Matthew 5:10). Luther spoke about a Christian’s attitude toward persecution in his usual colourful manner: “Although all the devils, the world, our neighbours, and our own people are our enemies, revile and slander us, pound and plague us, we should consider this nothing but a shovelful of manure dumped around the vine to fertilize it well.”

The only way we can stand up (and even rejoice) under persecution is when we remember that we, God’s children, are never alone. Luther says, “It is a laughable and ludicrous threat to scare Christ and His Christians with death, seeing that they are lords and victors of death. It is like trying to frighten a man by saddling his horse and letting him ride it,” and, “We should not fear harsh treatment, but prosperity and good days we should fear. These may harm us more than fear and persecution.”

Paul expresses this confidence in the beautiful words of Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is my prayer that we see persecution for our faith for what it is: the world’s raging against our Lord. May we not only stand up under persecution but, in God’s strength, be ready to give a powerful witness to the faith and hope we have in Jesus.

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Rev. Thomas Kruesel is Second Vice President of Lutheran Church–Canada.

  • reddog44

    Pastor Kruesel thanks for this article and the attitude we are to have as Christians. It is timely advice.

    But perhaps you could have been clearer on our role, as it appears you encouraged us to be pacifist and simply turn the other cheek and walk away. This is somewhat contrary to scripture and to Martin Luther himself.

    Scripture tells us for example to: ‘If you do not stand firm in your faith, you
    will not stand at all.” Isaiah 7:9. Ezekiel 3 tells us to be a “watchman” and to warn people when danger is near.

    Martin Luther took a chance and stood up to error and unrighteousness, and he hardly took the role of pacifism , he jumped into the fray.

    We need guidelines on our role because we are witnesses and watchman, so we need to do something besides sitting on our hands.

    This is not meant as a criticism, only an attempt to provide balance and clarification to your article.

    Clifford the “Reddog”